MARTINIS and poetry will be the order of the day when a special event is held in memory of renowned York-born poet WH Auden.

February 21 will be the 100th anniversary of Auden's birth in Bootham, and enthusiasts have planned a series of celebrations throughout this year.

On the anniversary itself, fans and historians will gather at Number 54 - the building where he was born exactly a century earlier - for an evening of literature, nostalgia and merriment.

On the stroke of 6pm, the assembled guests will all enjoy a Martini - as Auden himself used to do at that time every day.

The event has been organised by Hugh Bernays and Hugo Hildyard, of the Auden Society.

Mr Bernays praised Auden as the "Picasso of poetry because he was able to move from style to style".

"Auden is acknowledged as the greatest English poet of the 20th century," he said.

"What he did for poetry was to make it accessible in a colloquial and conversational way. He was extraordinarily gifted with words."

Mr Bernays said his favourite Auden poem at the moment was a sonnet he wrote while observing the Chinese and Japanese war in 1938, widely called United Nations.

A public event will be held on the anniversary at Bootham School hall at 8pm with poetry reading, songs and ginger beer.

Helping with the organisation is Philip Thake, who has a dual interest in the historic building.

Mr Thake is chief executive of its owners, York Conservation Trust, and managing partner of its current tenants, HPH Chartered Accountants.

He said: "Auden was a York person. He was born here and he is a very well-known poet, and I am surprised that there is not more being made of the centenary of his birth. I know he is not a Shakespeare, but he is certainly extremely well-known and some of his poems must be some of the most famous."

Among Auden's most famous works is Funeral Blues, which found international fame when it was read out in the hit film Four Weddings And A Funeral.

Mr Thake said that, after the film was released, they regularly had Americans visiting the building to see Auden's birthplace for themselves.

Although born in York, Auden's family moved to Birmingham in 1908. He later went on to study at Oxford, before moving to the United States in 1939, where he remained until his death in 1973.

On February 24, the University of York's department of English and related literature will co-host a special event to mark the anniversary, with a range of guest speakers.